September marks the beginning of preparations for the onset of the annual flu epidemic which starts in November and usually lasts through April. All of us can reduce the chances of getting sick by taking a few easy steps.
The first thing is to get a flu shot. These are readily available through your physician, local pharmacy and at many worksites. It is the single most effective step to prevent flu infection. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends flu vaccination for anyone over 6 months of age. Even if you got an immunization last year, you need to get again. The influenza viruses can change yearly so you may not be fully protected against the ones this season.
There are specific high risk groups that may develop more severe disease if they contract the flu infection; for them vaccination is even a higher priority. People falling into this category include anyone with a chronic illness such as asthma, COPD, congestive heart failure, diabetes and sickle cell disease. Pregnant women infected by the flu virus are especially at risk for premature delivery and additional complications that can lead to hospitalization. If you have a child less than 6 months of age living in your house, make sure that everyone else in the home is immunized in order to protect spreading the infection to the unprotected infant.
Other measures that can decrease your chances of getting sick include:
- Frequent hand washing
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Stay home if you are sick
- Avoid contact with sick individuals
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough